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  • ( intro music )

  • ( people chanting )

  • Stephanie: Child marriage occurs

  • in more than 50 developing countries around the world.

  • And almost always results

  • in the girl's removal from school.

  • What families don't realize

  • is that by curtailing girl's education,

  • they're only perpetuating the cycle of poverty.

  • Still, families do this for a number of reasons.

  • Perhaps they can't afford to feed

  • the rest of their children.

  • It can create family alliances

  • and it often settles debts.

  • Early marriage often results in abusive

  • and even deadly consequences.

  • ( bells ringing )

  • I first ran into this issue in Afghanistan in 2003.

  • I was doing a story on the burn ward

  • in Herat, Afghanistan.

  • There several girls had set themselves on fire

  • and I didn't understand why they would do that.

  • As a Westerner, as someone who

  • just hadn't had anything personal in my life

  • that was so bad that I would want to do that,

  • and then I met this young girl, Marzia.

  • She was 15 years old and turned out,

  • she had been married at the age of nine.

  • She had set herself on fire

  • because she broke her husband's television set

  • and obviously was so fearful of reaction

  • by him or the family

  • that she decided to set herself on fire,

  • and really that's a suicide attempt.

  • While I was in the burn ward,

  • I met several girls who... They all gave different reasons

  • for why they would do this.

  • Like someone didn't make the tea hot enough.

  • It wasn't reasons that I could comprehend.

  • The more I researched about their lives,

  • I learned that more than half of those girls

  • were married underage.

  • Now, I don't believe that's the only reason

  • why those girls did that

  • but at the same time,

  • it was a common denominator I couldn't deny.

  • I wanted to look at the issues

  • that would lead to such a horrific act.

  • I felt it was a bit irresponsible actually

  • as a photojournalist,

  • the journalist part being important,

  • to just show this end result.

  • I started looking at the issue of underage marriage,

  • something I had never encountered before like this.

  • I had the great fortune to meet Malalai Kakar

  • and she was a police officer in Kandahar.

  • Just a powerhouse, really amazing woman.

  • She had been working with...

  • in the police department for more than 20 years,

  • even under the Taliban,

  • only working on women's issues.

  • I told her what I was working on and she said,

  • "Stephanie, this is impossible.

  • You're never going to

  • photograph a wedding here in Afghanistan."

  • She's like, "I don't even know

  • if I can even get you anything like this."

  • She's like, "It happens all the time

  • but I don't know if I can get you this," and I said "okay."

  • Then I went back to the hotel

  • and she called me that afternoon.

  • She's like, "Stephanie, get over here."

  • She had this young girl Jamila,

  • which actually means beautiful in Arabic,

  • but this young girl Jamila, she was 15 years old.

  • She had been stabbed by her husband.

  • This is her husband there.

  • She already had 2 kids

  • and she had just been trying to visit her mother

  • without his permission.

  • I asked Malalai,

  • I said, "What's going to happen to this man?"

  • And she said, "Nothing."

  • She kind of scoffed

  • and then that's when she said,

  • "Men are kings here."

  • Unfortunately she was the one

  • who was later murdered by the Taliban.

  • Having worked in the Middle East for a long time,

  • I really wanted to make sure this wasn't something

  • that was just against one religious practice.

  • It's not meant to be against any religion, religious practice,

  • but I didn't want to single out one,

  • and so, I went looking in different countries

  • and cultures as well.

  • This series of photographs is from Nepal.

  • And this is a village called the Kagati Village

  • and it's just only 30 minutes outside of Kathmandu.

  • This village is known for practicing this. There is a day...

  • It's not Akha Teej, which they do in India,

  • but it's a different auspicious day

  • where a lot of girls are married on the same day.

  • I was able to see several of these young marriages.

  • The girls are usually married between 13 and 16.

  • It was very difficult to get access to.

  • In a lot of cases I showed them

  • some of the other pictures that I had done before

  • and I wanted them to know that I wasn't ...

  • You know, even though... I mean, I was focusing,

  • specifically in the beginning of the project,

  • on kind of the harmful repercussions

  • because I wanted that message to get out,

  • but at the same time

  • I wanted to show the cultures of the weddings

  • and the beauty in these cultures,

  • and that was one of the reasons

  • why I actually wanted to show the weddings themselves

  • because you see all these beautiful colors.

  • There are some really beautiful traditions.

  • One thing that I learned

  • was that some of the people in these weddings

  • that were participating,

  • were actually against the practice

  • but they were walking a fine line

  • between trying to like speak out

  • but also they were part of the culture.

  • They wanted to help me out

  • and help be their voice.

  • I also went to Ethiopia

  • where they have a strong Christian population.

  • In January there's a lot of weddings

  • up in the Amhara District,

  • which is where it's most predominant in Ethiopia.

  • I went to several weddings there

  • and this one was of a young girl.

  • I think she was 14, Layulim.

  • Here they actually drape the sheet over her head

  • to take her to her husband's house.

  • That's when they were taking her.

  • Actually she was one of the girls

  • who didn't mind that she was getting married.

  • She thought she was gonna have a better life.

  • She wasn't against her marriage

  • but they were taking her to the house

  • and I asked why is she covered up like that?

  • She said, "Well, we just wanna make sure

  • that if she escapes, she can't find her way home,

  • so she'll have to come back."

  • This is the first time that I actually was involved

  • in the stopping of a wedding.

  • In this situation, the mother came over

  • and she said to my translator

  • that this girl was gonna get married that week.

  • She asked us if we could stop it and I said,

  • "I really don't know."

  • That's not my job to do that,

  • it's not my position as a foreigner.

  • Not even as a journalist but as a foreigner

  • and I said, "But, if you want to discuss it with the sheikh...

  • And we have our government minder as well.

  • "If you want to discuss it

  • and tell them what you learned, then you can."

  • That's what she did.

  • They made a decision.

  • Even the government minder made a decision

  • to go talk to the head of the hospital,

  • not so far away,

  • and they came back and they talked to the village about

  • the physical consequences of early marriage

  • and they ended up stopping this particular wedding.

  • This is a young girl who was early 20's

  • and already had all those children.

  • This is a young girl named Asia

  • and she was 14 and already had 2 children.

  • She was still bleeding from her pregnancy.

  • She didn't know what was going on with her body

  • and that was one of the scariest situations

  • is them not knowing what's going on with their bodies

  • and why things are happening to them.

  • Yemen is one of the places where it's most predominant.

  • It's not as reported on

  • because it's harder to get statistics

  • and whatnot from.

  • But an amazing situation - I went to one village in Hajjah

  • and I said, "Can you show me

  • where there are some young girls

  • who are married underage?"

  • All of a sudden all these girls come in

  • and I was like, "Wow, I was expecting like two."

  • All these girls were married.

  • A couple of them had children.

  • Most of them were about 15, 16.

  • Most of them were not in school or had never been in school

  • and I asked them why hadn't they gone,

  • and they said, "Because there's no female teachers."

  • When you have a culture like this,

  • where if you don't have girls,

  • who are educated enough to become teachers,

  • then how do you put female teachers

  • in these rural areas.

  • Because this isn't Sanaa.

  • This isn't even Hodeidah.

  • This is like the rural village areas.

  • And so, it's hard to change a culture,

  • cultural practices where...

  • There's nothing for them to do but get married

  • if they're not educated to do anything else.

  • It was kind of a catch-22

  • and I felt that that was an important part of this story.

  • Thank you.

  • ( audience clapping )

  • Cynthia: I started in India in my field work

  • because it is the case of course

  • that this happens a great deal in India

  • as well as other countries, and India

  • being one of the most populous countries on the planet.

  • There's a whole area in Northern India,

  • the state of Rajasthan,

  • where this practice is more widespread

  • than anywhere else concentrated in India,

  • although it does take place all over India.

  • And in particular,

  • there is a season in India called Akha Teej,

  • which it's not specifically marriages

  • that are regarded as auspicious,

  • as we came to learn during Akha Teej.

  • All new enterprises including business enterprises

  • are thought to have a good start,

  • if they take place during this set of

  • religious and astrological holidays in Akha Teej.

  • So I first went...

  • Stephanie and I didn't connected until the 2nd trip.

  • I first went and spent a lot of time

  • just in the field, as Stephanie says,

  • just talking to people

  • and coming to understand how extraordinary,

  • how extraordinarily complicated this is.

  • Here's something that we all sort of know in the abstract,

  • but it takes a very different reality

  • when you're in India.

  • Many, many of the marriages in India

  • are arranged marriages.

  • It remains to this day the most common way

  • for marriage to occur in India,

  • for young men and young women.

  • So the notion that there is

  • some independent right for a woman or a girl

  • to select who she's gonna marry, is regarded

  • in many of the most enlightened families in India

  • as just nonsensical

  • because that's not the way you do it.

  • A marriage, Indians would say to me

  • of all educational levels,

  • is a joining of two families.

  • It's not two, excuse me,

  • two foolish young people in love with each other

  • deciding to get married.

  • There's so very much more at stake.

  • So that goes out the door right away.